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Data storage interview questions for your next storage role

Data storage administrators must be able to adapt and optimize storage for evolving workloads and business needs. Here are some questions to prepare for in an interview.

As storage technologies develop, the role of the traditional storage administrator has rapidly changed with it.

IT professionals that have focused primarily on storage hardware and infrastructure may find that, with the rise of new tech, their jobs are either rapidly changing or going away altogether. However, the outlook may not be as grim as it seems: Organizations will still need to store, tier and access data efficiently and securely.

In the new era of storage administration, admins can take advantage of new opportunities to hone their skills and thrive in the world of cloud, edge computing, hyper-converged infrastructure and other technologies. Despite the changing future of storage administration, organizations still need talented individuals with relevant skills in data storage and protection -- even if the infrastructure looks a lot different.

Storage admins looking to shift away from conventional storage roles may seek new opportunities within their current organization or elsewhere. As organizations transition from managing infrastructure to managing data, storage admins have plenty of opportunities to adapt to new technologies and reshape their role. When the time comes for an interview, prepare in advance for some of these big-picture questions.

In the past, how have you used storage performance metrics to troubleshoot storage issues?

Automation within modern storage systems provides many benefits in the realm of enterprise data storage. Rising interest in software-defined storage, AI-driven infrastructure and adoption of predictive analytics has brought data about data to the forefront of storage.

Storage admins with extensive experience configuring on-premises hardware can bring the same approach to newer storage environments. Admins with knowledge of storage systems should be able to discuss their ability to identify potential problems with storage before they occur -- even if the systems themselves are different.

Storage admins should be able to develop plans, ensure storage is readily available, fix hardware issues and optimize resources. With technical knowledge of storage systems, admins will be able to bring this expertise to their new role. While many AI-based storage systems can flag and solve problems in real time and predictive analytics can forecast future problems, admins are ultimately responsible to ensure data is not lost and storage systems run smoothly.

Can you tell us about a time you had to learn a new technology and manage it in your day-to-day operations?

Questions like these might get more specific based on technical skills and depending on what the potential employer is seeking. However, at a high level, candidates should prepare to answer these types of behavioral interview questions.

Organizations may also use questions like these to assess the technological competency from a candidate. Many former storage admins go on to adopt more generalized knowledge, as opposed to siloed storage expertise, as organizations move to more dynamic and diverse storage systems.

Despite the different types of responsibilities a storage admin may take in any given position, it is important to demonstrate a willingness and ability to learn new skills. Some storage admins may go on to work on relevant tasks that include cloud, data migrations and big data. Check job listings for the organization's requirements to see if it is looking for certain skills.

What is your approach to drafting budgets for storage?

There are various approaches to budgeting for storage, and candidates should be familiar with it at a high level. While storage roles have become more diverse in their responsibilities, it's still important to understand how to maximize budgets.

The way organizations budget storage has also changed. Storage as a service, cloud storage and disaggregated storage have introduced a deeper range of options for an organization's needs, as some organizations look to shift from Capex to Opex. Some workloads may require certain storage criteria, so any given IT department may -- and likely will -- have more than just an on-premises system.

Admins with contextual expertise should be able to identify storage opportunities for data based on business requirements. For example, data for AI workloads may require high-performance storage, such as NVMe SSDs, while other data can be tiered to lower-cost storage. Organizations with different workloads will want candidates who manage storage to understand how to create storage plans to maximize budgets.

What storage systems are you familiar with and do you have any certifications?

Storage admins who have worked with on-premises storage in the past may have worked with hardware from different vendors. Some organizations look for candidates who have experience with hardware from a specific vendor, and many vendors offer certificate courses for their products. Certifications provide cost-controlled exposure to a vendor's hardware and can bolster a resume.

Certificate courses include the following:

  • Cisco Certified Network Professional Data Center
  • Dell Technologies Certified Associate, Information Storage and Management v5
  • Hitachi Vantara Qualified Professional -- Storage Administration
  • NetApp Certified Data Administrator, OnTap
  • HPE Accredited Solutions Expert -- Storage Solutions v4

Google and Amazon also offer various cloud certificate programs. Check vendor websites for certificate or training courses they offer.

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